Extremely rare face and double hand transplant gives man new chance at life

The world’s first successful face and double-hand transplant is giving a 22-year-old New Jersey man a second chance at life.
It took one moment back in 2018 to change Joe DiMeo's life forever. “I was leaving a night shift at work, I fell asleep at the wheel and I swerved off the side of the road hit a curb and my car caught on fire and burned 80% of my body,” said DiMeo.
He survived that traumatic crash, but since then, he says nothing has been the same.
“I basically just laid around on the couch all day and just watch TV,” said DiMeo.
In August, he got a face and double hand transplant -- thanks to a surgical team from NYU Langone Health. Doctors say it’s the first successful combination transplant case of its kind in the world.
 “The first attempt in Paris, the patient actually died…the second attempt both hands failed at five days following the surgery,” said Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez.
Dr. Rodriguez and his team say they took on the challenge and successfully completed the 23-hour surgery.
“Before he couldn’t dress himself, he couldn’t feed himself, unfortunately, he was dependent on his parents as caretakers and that is no longer the case. He’s moving on. The advances that I have seen in the evolution of his functional return are truly remarkable,” said Dr. Rodriguez.
“I could play with my dog. I can actually feel his face and hold his face and pet him and I can feel his tongue licking my hand. It’s really nice to have that feeling,” said DiMeo.
DiMeo tells News 12 Dr. Rodriguez and his team changed his life.  He says he has plans to move out of his parent's home and wants to get back to work and driving.